Jean Sibelius composed two works that are noted for their romantic nationalism, "Finlandia" and his "D Major Symphony No. 2."
The Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra performed the former last season and will end the current season with the latter.
Along with the Sibelius work, SASO is performing Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and "Concerto for Harmonica" by Vosk, featuring soloist Pierre Herbineaux. This season-ending concert will be conducted by Dr. Linus Lerner.
This program will be performed this Sunday, June 6, at Desert View Performing Arts Auditorium at SaddleBrooke, and again Sunday, June 13 at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Oro Valley. Both performances begin at 3 p.m. For ticket and other information go to www.sasomusic.org
Born in 1865 in Finland, he was named Johan Julius Christian Sibelius and called Janne by family members. He entered the Helsinki Music Academy in 1885, studied in Berlin in 1889 and 1890 and in Vienna from 1890 to 1891.
Like Beethoven and others, he loved nature, which inspired him, as did Nordic folk music and literature. Composers Busoni, Bruckner and Tchaikovsky all served as inspiration and influenced his work.
Sibelius and Mahler were contemporaries and symphonists, moving in different directions. While they both composed very powerful symphonies, their form and development were in stark contrast. Where Mahler used a huge orchestra and composed very long complex works, Sibelius stayed with a standard size orchestra. His symphonies run between 30 and 48 minutes and are structurally constrained.
Like Rossini, Sibelius composed very few works in later life. During his last 31 years, he completed two major compositions. Outside Scandinavia, his music is very popular and performed frequently in Britain and the United States, championed by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra.
SASO will perform the Sibelius "Symphony No. 2 in D major" as the final selection of the 2009-2010 season. Not only does the work require astute preparation of details, it needs stamina, too. Like a Beethoven Fifth or a Brahms First, this is a big, powerful symphony with huge demands on everyone, particularly the conductor, brasses and timpani. It is in the standard four movements, runs 46 minutes but is not in the usual sonata form.
Started in the winter of 1900 in Rapallo, Italy and completed in 1902 back in Finland, the Second Symphony does not reflect the radical changes in the music world of the time. Revolutionary innovations from composers — Debussy in France, Schoenberg in Austria, Stravinsky from Russia and Richard Strauss in Germany — were having profound influence. Sibelius made no metamorphic changes in his composing, being tonal and using standard rhythmic structure. One area his music emphasizes is dynamics with sudden outbursts, gradual building and reduction of sound and doing the unexpected.
The symphony has numerous key changes and a vast array of tempo variations; seven in the first movement, 12 in the second, four in the third and seven in the finale. The first four performances were in Helsinki conducted by the composer, who regularly conducted throughout Europe.